Utterly Meaningless » 2004 » November

    Filed on November 23, 2004 at 11:26 am under by dcobranchi

    and at least one blogger will beat a path to your door.

    The Best Paper Airplane in the World.


    Filed on at 10:58 am under by dcobranchi

    A new mom apparently suffered a psychotic episode and killed her baby girl. The details are really gruesome. Sadly, this occurred in TX which doesn’t really allow for insanity pleas. She’s facing the death penalty.


    Filed on at 7:25 am under by dcobranchi

    Izzy thinks this little bio-blurb at the end of a recent column is full of irony:

    Rudy Takala is 16 years old and lives in Pine City, Minnesota. He was homeschooled for nine years, but is attending the state’s education facilities for the 2004-5 period.

    Irony? What irony?


    Filed on at 6:51 am under by dcobranchi

    Rikki sent word of another youngster who is earning his way in the world:

    On a warm summer day, thousands of bees busily hum, transforming nectar into honey as Jon Eischen expertly checks one of the 20 hives on his family’s farm.

    Jon started beekeeping two years ago, when he was 13. He’s been stung only once while wearing a bee suit. “You can’t get nervous,” he says. “If you get nervous, they can sense that.”

    … Jon, his parents and some of his five siblings sell the honey at the Beaverton and Hillsboro farmers markets and at more than 10 stores and bazaars. Samples are offered at the farmers markets, and many tasters, even those who aren’t honey fans, find they like it.

    Jon’s homeschooled, of course.

    Rikki found out about Jon’s honey through YoungBiz.com, which publishes a magazine for future Trumps.

    UPDATE: And speaking of YEs, Chris’ daughter is participating in her first “trade show.” Good luck.


    Filed on at 6:00 am under by dcobranchi

    The never-ending battle between charter school supporters and opponents is heating up again with the release of yet another study that seems to show they don’t outperform their normal g-school counterparts.

    “In five case-study states, charter schools are less likely to meet state performance standards than traditional public schools,” the report said. Those states, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and North Carolina, all have made significant public investments in charter schools.

    …The report found that in two states, however, Texas and Colorado, even when allowances were made for race and poverty, the charter schools were still less likely to meet state standards than regular schools.

    This may or may not be significant. The study is apparently not longitudinal, so there are no trends to examine. Until someone reports a long-term study of two batches of kids, one in charter schools and the other in regular g-schools, we’re not likely to be able to answer the question of whether charter schools work.


    Filed on November 22, 2004 at 7:38 pm under by dcobranchi

    any excuse will do.

    A Boston-area school district is refusing to rent out a school building to a church group for Sunday worship. The superintendent invoked the old Separation of Church and State shibboleth, even though the Supreme Court has held that this kind of use doesn’t violate the principle.

    A lawyer for the city said it had no objection to letting the church use the building for uses other than worship services.

    “We allow the schools to be used by religious organizations for sports activities, for cultural activities, but we don’t allow the schools to be used for propagation of faith,” said Larry O’Keefe, a lawyer for the city.

    The church is suing for access. I’ll bet they win. (HT: Deb)


    Filed on at 5:38 pm under by dcobranchi

    From Jason Wright:

    Please read this information on a current VISA & MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam. By understanding how the scam works, you’ll Be better prepared to protect yourself. These con artists get more creative every day.

    The scam works like this:

    Person calling says, “this is , and I’m calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I’m calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by bank. Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona?”

    When you say “No”, the caller continues with, “Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?”

    You say “yes”. The caller continues… “I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1-800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control #” The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. “Do you need me to read it again?”

    Here’s the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, “he needs to verify you are in possession of your card”.

    He’ll ask you to “turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are your card number, the next 3 are the ‘Security Numbers’ that verify you are in possession of the card. These are the numbers you use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. Read me the 3 numbers”. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he’ll say ,”That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?” After you say No, the caller then Thanks you and states, “Don’t hesitate to call back if you do”, and hangs up.

    You actually say vEry little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charge on on our card.

    Long story made short, we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card, and they are reissuing us a new number. What the scammers wants is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don’t give it to them. Instead, tell them you’ll call VISA or Mastercard direct. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you’re receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement, you’ll see charges for purchases you didn’t make, and by then it’s almost to late and/or harder to actually file a fraud report.

    Forewarned is forearmed.


    Filed on at 4:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    A local community college is offering a whole suite of classes for homeschoolers.

    Now you can attend classes either at North East Campus or at the Elkton Center to complete the curricular needs of homeschool students during the day. Art, Science with Lab, Math, Computers, Theatre, Music, and Physical Education are all possible classes coming in the future. These innovative and motivated classes are taught by qualified and enthusiastic teachers.

    The classes are aimed at kids between 7 and 13. I guess after 14 they expect homeschoolers to be ready to take a regular CC course. 🙂


    Filed on at 12:47 pm under by dcobranchi

    Just a reminder- the 50% off Scholastic Books Warehouse Sales will be starting up any day now. DE’s is set for 12/15-18.


    Filed on at 6:12 am under by dcobranchi

    Vox Day’s column defending homeschooling was going along really well until the very end:

    But the real question underneath it all is this: To whom does a child belong? The child either belongs to the state or to the parents. There is no middle ground. And considering the long, lethal history of the relationship between of governments and children dating back to King Herod, turning to the state to prevent child abuse would appear to be rather similar to relying on the National Socialists to protect Jews.

    It’s worth a read, regardless.


    Filed on November 21, 2004 at 7:41 pm under by Tim Haas

    Well, this entry was supposed to be a long continuation of this, but I got halfway through and just couldn’t go on — I’m mighty sick of the whole verdammte thing. I think my wife summed it up best when she was trying to pry me away from my keyboard so that I could do something useful around the house: “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    It comes down to this, I think: We already have the tools to defeat legislation predicated on scare stories such as make up the bulk of the Akron series; it’s the social utility/children’s rights arguments that we need to become more skilled at countering.

    The first obvious step is to resist attempts to reframe the debate:

    For [Stanford University political science professor Rob] Reich, the laws have vested too much power in parents. The community has a stake, and children have rights, too, he said.

    In the West, especially in America, the question has always been and will always be how much power we should vest in the state — which of our inherent rights and moral responsibilities, such as the education and upbringing of our children, it is beneficial and proper to cede in part or in whole to an outside authority. In other words, if anybody’s got some ‘splainin’ to do around here, it ain’t me — it’s the proponents of government schooling.

    It turns out that Rob Reich is currently on a year’s sabbatical from Stanford and living on the East Coast; I hope to have lunch with him sometime in the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say then.


    Filed on at 5:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    The site is under continuous comment-spam attack. The spammers have managed to essentially beat MTBlacklist by creating an unlimited number of sub-domains. As such, I’ve had to go nuclear and ban any comments with a link to a .info domain. Unfortunately, MTBlacklist ignores the “.” and only searches for the text string. So, any comment with “info” in it will get bounced. If this happens to you, just change your text to “inf0.” Sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m getting upwards of 250 spam attempts per day.


    Filed on at 1:45 pm under by dcobranchi

    The pairings for the playoffs are up. My beloved Furman Paladins have the #2 seed overall and could meet Delaware in the semi-finals. If both teams make it that far, I’ll definitely drive down to SC for that game (Furman would be the host).

    Interestingly, the pairings split the two SoCon teams, so it is theoretically possible that Georgia Southern and Furman could face each other in the finals for the third time.


    Filed on at 12:52 pm under by dcobranchi

    This isn’t exactly a LttE, but a post on the ABJ Forum.

    Sadly, my daughter also has chosen to homeschool my grandchildren. She has a variety of reasons- religion, bullies in school, etc., but in truth, she does it for her own convenience. She just does not want to get up early every morning, prepare and transport the children. She also wants to be free to travel or camp. The children may get 2 hours of instruction, 3 days a week. They have little or no interaction with other children. Both are bright, creative children, but are falling farther behind their peers daily.

    As a retired public school teacher, I am able to assess their progress, or lack of progress. Although I work with the children a couple days a week, I do not want to spend my retirement homeschooling. I put 35 years into teaching. My grandchildren are being denied a quality education. Homeschooling does not provide my granddaughter with a speech and hearing screening, or many of the amenities available in public schools.

    How can children be prepared to live and work in a world we can not even imagine, if they have never had their pencil stolen, had a teacher they hated, or had someone make fun of them? In the real world of work, you need to work with others ( even if you dislike them or think they’re mentally inferior).

    As for my grandchildren, I have stopped contributing to their college funds. They won’t need it!

    Wow! So g-schooling is all about amenities and learning to get along with thieves and hatred and mentally inferior folk? Whodathunkit? Well, given this letter, I can certainly understand the “mentally inferior” part.


    Filed on at 10:42 am under by dcobranchi

    A PA school district has mandated the teaching of Intelligent Design (i.e., creationism lite). As I’ve written before, ID has no place in a g-school science curriculum. It’s religion, pure and simple.


    Filed on at 10:32 am under by dcobranchi

    Librarians in Bay City, MI are ripping you off.

    BAY CITY, Mich. — Keeping library books too long could soon land some readers in jail.

    Frustrated librarians want the worst offenders to face charges and up to 90 days behind bars.

    From a review of Four Past Midnight:

    The Library Policeman was written after King’s son didn’t want to go to the library as he was afraid of the library police. King felt this was a nice idea and used it. What if there were serious men in long coats that came to your house and fetched the books if you didn’t return them in time. And most importantly: what happens if you lose the book you borrowed?

    Life imitates art.


    Filed on at 7:47 am under by dcobranchi

    Alternative title: We had to destroy Iraq in order to save it.

    Is this what passes for “reasoned” thinking on the neo-con right?

    And truth be told, our war-fighting strategy in Iraq is ridiculously over-generous to the enemy. Why should we risk any American lives to defeat the insurgents? Why doesn’t the US bomb the jihadists and the cities they occupy into oblivion as it did with the Nazis in Germany and the Shinto cultists in Japan? Our government exists to protect American lives, not to sacrifice them in the name of preventing “collateral damage.” One American life ought to be worth more than 10,000—even 100,000 of the enemy.

    So instead of placing our men in harms way in Fallujah and then apologizing when they kill the enemy, we should demand that the Bush administration open up the floodgates and unleash the full power of our military might. We should fight the war in Iraq as it deserves to be fought: as a righteous war to defeat a vicious tyranny that threatened our security. Those who stand with that tyranny or seek to replace it with a new one are an enemy that forfeits their right to exist. They deserve all the harm that comes to them.

    Let’s just nuke it and get it over with, right? Firebomb the cities. Rape the women. Sell the kids into slavery. Why not? Evidently the enemy (i.e., Iraqis) aren’t human.

    Reason appears to be in short supply at the Rule of Reason.


    Filed on at 7:37 am under by dcobranchi

    Every time I read about this sort of trip, I immediately want to sell the house and hit the road:

    It began as a way for Sue and Gary Smith to reconnect with their four kids.

    The children were growing up too fast. Life was speeding by. The Smiths wanted a family moment to last forever before the chicks left the nest.

    So Gary Smith, now 43, gave up his six-figure income at a telecommunicatons job. The Smiths and their children, ages 3 to 11, packed their bags, loaded up a recreational vehicle and pulled out of the driveway of their Fishers, Ind., home last November on a yearlong trek to visit every state in America.


    Filed on at 6:04 am under by dcobranchi

    A geneticist at Texas A&M University has bred a habanero pepper that is only 1/100 as hot as the original. This is horrible! What if these “mild” genes somehow get out into the wild? It’d kill the best (and hottest) pepper around.

    Yes, I’m a chili head. I’ve grown habaneros (and eaten them) and have a collection of hot sauces (that I actually use). My two favorites are Dave’s Insanity Sauce and Endorphin Rush. Dave’s is just plain hot! I really can’t ascribe a taste to it (unless sheer pain can be called a “taste”). ER, OTOH, has just a hint of sweetness before your tongue melts in habanero ecstasy.

    Liquid Death
    I do have one bottle that I’ve never tried. It’s a 1995 vintage bottle of Dave’s Insanity Sauce Limited Edition at twice the heat of the original. The signed and numbered bottle comes in a small wooden coffin. These sauces pop up on eBay every once in a while. Mine (#4517) would probably fetch around $60 if I sold it. I’m not going to. Instead, on Jan. 1, 2005 I’m going to wish it a happy 10th birthday and break it open. I’ll make a big batch of chili and happily kill my stomach lining.


    Filed on at 2:03 am under by dcobranchi

    The following is from the Wayback machine of a forum for pre-school teachers. The original has been deleted. And they say we’re not qualified to teach.

    I have 20 students and explaining Thanksgiving to preschoolers is difficult. I came up with this flannel board story with enough pictures for each shild. As the teacher tells the story the children add their symbol that they are holding to the board.(These pictures have been laminated with the sticky/rough side of the velcrow attached to the back of each picture. My flannel board is not large enough for all the pictures so I use a blanket drapped over 2 chair backs.The velcrow sticks well to the blanket.)The story is long but the children are getting up and walking to the story blanket so this breaks the time that are sitting down and helps them to learn as well as stay interested. The picture words I use on my copy of the story is highlighted (this lets me know to stop for the child to add their picture). I have placed an asterik beside the words in this story so you will know which ones I used but you and use any you choose. Kids really like it and they were telling me the story later. Enjoy Story…. The Very First Thanksgiving A very long time ago in a country called England a fleet of *ships set sail to find a new country. All the ships had names and captains who manned then. The ship that was the first to land here was called *The Mayflower and the captain was named *Christopher Columbus. The wind blew and waves rocked the boats, and the ships lost their way in the storm. Finally this ship; The Mayflower was tossed onto land. The captain Christopher Columbus and his crew were ship wrecked. They had discovered a new land. No white man had ever been there before. It was inhabited by people with funny colored skin, long black hair and wore animal skins for clothes. Their faces were painted and feathers adorned their heads. These people lived in funny looking houses called *T-Pees. They carried objects that they used for hunting animals that looked like *spears and *bow & arrows. Christopher Columbus named this tribe of people *Indians. The Indians did not speak English nor did they understand it, they had a language all their own. So neither the white man not the Indians understood each other. This made both kinds of people afraid of each other. The Indians named the white men *Pilgrims; but these Pilgrims were in a big mess They had no homes for shelter, their food supply had been eaten up while they were still on the sea in their ships, plus they were in a very strange land. The Pilgrims built homes from the trees they cut down and called them *log cabins. They soon ran out of bullets and the *deer, *turkey and other game ran to fast for them to catch so a lot of the pilgrims starved to death. The Pilgrim women picked *berries, *nuts and dug up roots to eat but they could not find enough they were still very hungry. After a few months had gone by there was very few pilgrims left alive. Why are the Indians alive but our people are dying they asked.So the Pilgrims decided they needed to make friends with the Indians. The *women of both sets of people were the first to make friends. The Indians showed the Pilgrims how to farm the land and trap *fish and other animals. They taught them how to make clothes and blankets from animal skins. The Pilgrims taught the Indians how to read and write and speak the English language. At last there seemed to be hope for the Pilgrims. It was the end of the first year and the end of Harvest time so the Pilgrims and the Indians decided to have a feast to show their Thankfulness for the past year. Outside in the yard they set up long tables and every one brought food to share with each other. Some brought berries, and nuts. There were plenty of *vegetables, including *corn and *fruits. The meat consisted of Fish, Deer, Turkey, *Pheasant, duck and anything else they could catch, trap, or hunt. The Pilgrims and Indians ate, danced, and played games for 3 days.


    Filed on November 20, 2004 at 7:21 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m sure Michael Lopez wasn’t thinking about reasons to homeschool when he wrote this but he might as well have been:

    [T]his creeping interest of schools into the off-campus activities of their students really bothers me. It’s different than off-campus regulation of University students, because students at a University aren’t required to attend by law, and many Universities are private actors. But public schools are constantly taking a larger and larger role in students’ lives, punishing them for off-campus infractions, serving breakfast AND lunch, screening for telltale bruises, and sending home “parent report cards.” It’s almost as if the government were trying to completely regulate the lives of the citizenry (for their own good of course) and had decided that the schools were their “in” into the lives of families. Kids have to be in school, after all. Once there, the children are a lever. They are the perfect excuse for anything that the government wants to do. “We’re doing this for the children! The children!”


    Filed on at 5:38 pm under by dcobranchi

    Matt Hearn has some tips for living a reasonably successful life. I especially like this one:

    The only time when it is reasonably safe to ask a woman if she is pregnant is when she appears to actually be in labor. Even then, it’s worth tap-dancing around the subject a little bit. “So, do you, um, have any children?” “I’M GIVING BIRTH YOU IDIOT!” “Oh! Really? I hadn’t even noticed! You carry it so well.”

    Note that if you are responsible for the pregnancy in question, the above technique could result in your death. Of course, any man with a pregnant spouse has the Sword of Damocles over his head anyway.

    A friend of mine actually violated this rule. In front of over 100 people. And she wasn’t pregnant. It wasn’t pretty.


    Filed on at 2:57 pm under by dcobranchi

    To make it easy for everyone who’s wondering just how much private schools are regulated, here’s a handy chart. Note all those blocks with voluntary. Note the even more numerous blank blocks.

    Q & A

    Filed on at 2:34 pm under by dcobranchi

    The ABJ wants feedback:

    Home schooling today has grown to include cooperatives and unregulated private education systems. Should home schoolers be permitted to define themselves, or should home schooling outside the home be regulated?

    No more than private schools are regulated. If the kids are meeting in a public space, the building should be subject to the same type of fire inspections as any other public space. That’s it.

    — Is there a point at which a parent’s authority over a child is superseded by the community’s interest, and if so, at what point?

    No. The child has the right to be fed and cared for. The community has no “rights” whatsoever. They have an interest in having a literate populace. Even without statistically acceptable (to Reich et al.) studies, I’m willing to bet 100:1 that we’re doing at least as well as the g-schools in teaching our kids to read.

    — Should children have any say in their education, and if so, at what age and under what circumstances?

    No– at least none that is defined in statute. As my kids get older, will we ask their opinions? Sure. Should the government be able to force that? No way.

    — Has your understanding of home schooling changed, and if so, how?

    No– but it has changed my opinion of the ABJ. I used to think it was a second-rate podunk paper with sloppy reporting. Now I KNOW it’s a third-rate podunk paper with sloppy reporting.

    — Has the Akron Beacon Journal been fair and complete in its presentation of this subject?

    This is a trick question, right?


    Filed on at 2:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    After seven days of obviously slanted “reporting” (I can use scare quotes, too) these are the conclusions that the ABJ draws:

    • The home-schooling movement has grown dramatically in recent years. Illegal in most states just 20 years ago, it’s now legal nationwide.

    • The movement is diverse, and parents’ reasons for home-schooling are many and varied.

    • There are thousands of home-schooling success stories. Many students achieve at the highest levels.

    • The home-schooling movement is politically powerful and has been effective at defeating attempts to regulate it, or even to conduct broad research on it.

    • The home-schooling lobby says research proves that home-schooled students do better than their public-schooled peers, but that research is narrow, and the researchers themselves say much of it has been overstated and misused.

    • An unknown number of parents take advantage of the lack of home-school regulation to hide abuse and neglect of their children.

    • Many home-schooling parents argue that it’s a parent’s right and responsibility — not the government’s — to decide how children are educated.

    That’s it? They took seven days and uncounted column-inches to come up with a list of facts that any one of us could have listed in five minutes without even resorting to googling. What a waste of electrons.


    Filed on at 12:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    waiting for me to add audio to H&OES. Trust me; you wouldn’t want to listen.


    Filed on at 12:43 pm under by Tim Haas

    The main piece of the last Akron segment is up. I’ll try to keep my sarcasm to a minimum, but I must warn you that I did wake up cranky this morning.

    Parents Assert Rights

    I guess the lack of scare quotes around rights is a tacit admission that such rights do in fact exist.

    Read more »


    Filed on at 11:35 am under by dcobranchi

    The ABJ has cataloged the whole series here. Light Saturday afternoon reading.


    Filed on at 10:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Via homeschool.com:

    Florida Christian College Recruiting Homeschoolers

    Warner Southern College
    in Florida is actively recruiting homeschoolers. Most homeschooled students begin researching and planning for college early. Each student has his or her own interests and educational goals. Warner Southern College is a private Christian liberal arts college in Central Florida where homeschooled students are welcomed and wanted. From the very beginning, they help make your application and entrance process go smoothly. Academic advisors offer guidance in career considerations, academic programs and personal development.

    Warner Southern College asked us to let homeschoolers know that they would like to have more homeschooled students, particularly those “committed to Christian faith and academic excellence.” According to Warner Southern College, “you’ll learn practical skills within your major, enabling you to develop your future and advance your career. The dedicated faculty, administration and staff serve as advisors and mentors, motivating and encouraging students to succeed. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, students receive individual attention from instructors.”

    According to one homeschooling family:

    “In the beginning, I chose Warner Southern because they were a ‘homeschool friendly’ college. But I’ve found they are much more than that. They really care about the students. From the day I arrived, they made me feel welcomed. The faculty and staff provide an atmosphere that motivates, and they encourage us to succeed. I know that I have chosen a college where I can be proud to be an alumnus.”

    Dane Lampe
    Former Homeschooled Student
    Ormond Beach, Florida

    Warner Southern College is located in the quaint, historic town of Lake Wales, Florida. They are close to east and west coast beaches as well as Central Florida attractions. If your interest is athletics, Warner Southern offers a comprehensive athletics program for men and women.

    Warner Weekend
    – Each February, Warner Southern College offers prospective students and their parents the perfect opportunity to experience college life. You attend classes, hang out with students, faculty and staff, and get your fill of late-night activities. The upcoming Warner Weekend is February 3, 4 and 5. Click on the link below to receive information.

    Yeah, I’m sure it’s a paid-for spam but Warner seems legit.


    Filed on at 9:33 am under by dcobranchi

    Jim Peacock at Zero Intelligence has found the dumbest ZT policy in the world.

    I. Weapons

    Students shall not possess, handle, transmit, use or attempt to use any dangerous weapon.

    “Dangerous weapon” or “weapon” means any dangerous instrument or substance, which is capable of inflicting any injury on any person.
    Students found to be in violation of this policy shall be expelled for not less than one (1) calendar year. [ Gun Free Schools Act 1994, Section 1401 (1) (2); TCA 49-6-4202; TCA 39-17-1309; TCA49-6-3401; TCA 49-6-4202].

    The school is actually enforcing this for the possession of an earring. Jim writes:

    They have classified the world and everything in it as dangerous and set the penalty for using any item as a minimum one year expulsion. If they actually follow their own rules the school will be empty within a week.

    That might not be so bad. Any kids in a school run by these idiots would be better off expelled.


    Filed on at 7:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Do you think that perhaps the Miami g-schools have been taking some heat lately?

    Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Rudy Crew asked the county’s police chief to instruct his officers not to use stun guns against children in elementary schools ever again, according to a letter released Friday.

    The request comes in the wake of an October incident in which a Miami-Dade officer zapped a 6-year-old first-grader who was wielding a piece of glass in an office at Kelsey Pharr Elementary.

    They also zapped a 12-year-old who was ditching school.


    Filed on at 7:32 am under by dcobranchi

    Another First Amendment case. When will edu-crats learn that kids do not lose all of their rights the minute they step through the prison school-house doors?

    Truszkowski wore a white, short-sleeved T-shirt to school Friday with the words, “The Real Terrorist Is In The White House,” written in black on the front, and “End the Tyranny” written on the back.

    School officials told him the shirt was inappropriate and if he didn’t cover it up, he would be suspended.

    …The teen feels the school is infringing on his first amendment right to free speech.

    This quote is telling:

    Valerie Huot, president of the Everett Middle School PTA, said officials try hard to keep the school a neutral place and limit distractions. She said parents and students should be aware of the type of clothing that is suitable for school, although teens seem to be making their fashion statements more political these days.

    “My son has a political T-shirt, but he knows better than to wear it to school,” Huot said. “When you wear a shirt like that, you’re wearing it for attention. … The fact that you can call your own government terroristic after Sept. 11 … it creates more division than unity.”

    So, it’s the content that’s the trouble. Black arm bands. White tee-shirts. Sounds pretty cut & dried to me. Where’s the ACLU?


    Filed on at 7:20 am under by dcobranchi

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was re-authorized late yesterday in both the House and Senate. Mike Castle (R-DE) led the sub-committee that wrote the legislation. I haven’t yet seen the text of the bill, but I know that homeschooling is mentioned in at least one spot. I’m curious to see if they’ve fixed the anomalous treatment of homeschoolers who live in states where homeschools are a separate category from private schools.

    UPDATE: I think homeschoolers got burned again. See 20 U.S.C. 1412 (a) (3) CHILD FIND. The language appears not to have changed sufficiently to fix the problem. I’m not one for special privileges for homeschoolers, but treating kids differently because of the way their state classifies homeschooling just doesn’t make any sense. Looks like it’s time to put our grass-roots skills to work.


    Filed on at 5:40 am under by dcobranchi

    The latest ABJ article is up, but it doesn’t go anywhere. It mentions that “homeschooling purists” are opposed to cyber charter schools. That’s not necessarily accurate. I think the opposition is to folks enrolling their kids in these schools calling themselves homeschoolers. Likewise, the companies who run these schools tend to confuse what they’re doing with homeschooling.

    The article has no voice; draws no conclusions. I don’t get it.


    Filed on November 19, 2004 at 9:12 pm under by dcobranchi

    The ABJ takes on HSLDA in this piece. It’s spot on and mentions NHEN and NHELD as opposing HSLDA’s version (and vision) of homeschooling. I never thought I’d say this about one of these pieces, but it’s worth a read.

    UPDATE: Via email, Skip Oliva pointed out that the article damns HSLDA for working with the allegedly conservative Cato Institute. Skip correctly notes that Cato’s not conservative and certainly not comparable to the Heritage Foundation.


    Filed on at 8:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    It keeps getting in the way of those good folks in Congress:

    Sam Brownback wants to crack down on porn.

    The U.S. Senator from Kansas held a hearing on porn addiction Thursday in his role as chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science, the Associated Press reports.

    “Internet pornography is corrupting children and hooking adults into an addiction that threatens their jobs and families, a panel of anti-porn advocates told a hearing organized Thursday by Senator Sam Brownback, chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science.

    “Brownback, a Republican from Kansas and an outspoken Christian conservative who has championed efforts to curb indecency on television and the Internet, said the public is beginning to realize ‘they don’t just have to take it.’

    “But he acknowledged the First Amendment right to free speech has limited congressional efforts.”

    *&$#&$^ Founding Fathers!


    Filed on at 10:03 am under by dcobranchi

    The ABJ article today gets it mostly correct (even if the tone is mostly negative). It’s all about how well we have mastered grass-roots politics.

    Parents are unfettered because few other groups are as effective or as feared as home schoolers. Their tenacious lobbying is widely known, whether they are mobilizing for sustained battles or gearing up in a matter of hours when their interests are threatened. They have shut down parts of the federal government, pressured major corporations to abandon merchandise or re-examine their advertising, targeted unfriendly lawmakers at the state and national levels, and gone after school officials either in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion.

    …Despite the diversity of parents who teach their own children, when it comes to threats against home schoolers, they unite.

    In just the past two years, home schoolers have lobbied successfully in about one-third of the states to further relax regulatory oversight or head off efforts to monitor their activity. In many cases, they have been able to block public discussion of their practices through relentless lobbying and a successful marketing campaign that cites inconclusive research to prove their home-schooled children are excelling academically and socially.

    No one has been allowed to challenge any aspect of the home-schooling movement without arousing the scorn of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of families.

    Their record is enviable. Their positions have prevailed on such key issues as testing, attendance hours, reporting requirements, parents’ making the decision to home-school without local approval, and relaxing standards for parental qualifications to teach.

    They’re right. When we play at the local level, we’re probably as good as it gets. Listservs (and blogs?) keep us informed and help us to activate a lobbying effort at a moment’s notice. That being said, we need to keep the number of “e-Lerts” to a minimum. A certain lobbying group has been known to go overboard on alleged threats. The ABJ picks up on this:

    Texas was not the first place that united home schoolers brought a government operation to a standstill. In 1994, they disrupted the U.S. House of Representatives for a few days.

    Home schoolers were concerned that an amendment to an education funding bill would require parents to be certified teachers, although the author, U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., contended that it applied only to public classroom instructors.

    Congressional staff lawyers offered similar assurances in a House Education and Labor Committee hearing, but home schoolers were not convinced.

    Michael Farris, then president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, sent e-mails to thousands of home schoolers on his Internet alert system and appeared on the 700 Club and radio talk show Focus on the Family with host James Dobson to sound an alarm.

    “This bill contains the most dangerous assault on the freedom of home schools and private schools ever seen in recent history,” Farris said in a letter sent to all his organization’s members and affiliated home-school groups.

    U.S. House telephone lines soon were jammed with thousands of calls and faxes, preventing some members from using their phones for days.

    Farris called it the finest hour for home-schooling politics.

    That effort is still controversial, even in the homeschooling community.

    The paper mentions that home education saves the state money and that we mostly just want to be left alone. All-in-all, this is probably the most balanced of their articles to date.

    After the final article is published tomorrow, I’m planning on sitting back and reading the whole series through again. I think I’m getting a feel for the reporters’ agenda (in addition to the Pulitzer) but want to mull it over for a few days. I’ll try to get some thoughts up by Monday.


    Filed on November 18, 2004 at 7:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    Alternative title: Dear Rob

    I’m back in town and am planning on catching up on the ABJ series this weekend. Tim and Chris have done an admirable job fisking the series, but I can’t resist making a comment or two. Today’s entry in the series is, if anything, the worst of the series. Worst because the reporters have invented (not discovered) a new reason to be suspicious of homeschooling– we might be kidnappers. I kid you not.

    Emily Fritts was 6 years old when her mother abducted her in Staunton, Va.

    For the next eight years, Mary Outlaw Fritts and Emily lived on the run in at least five other states: Tennessee, Oregon, Kansas, Alaska and Montana. They assumed new identities, becoming Mary and Emily Stutz.

    Mary Fritts took an additional step to keep her secret, something she could not have done as easily 10 or 20 years earlier in most states: She home-schooled Emily.

    Yes, it’s true. Of the almost 2,000,000 homeschoolers a few of them may be on the lam. And we’re enabling them.

    When children move from one public school to the next, their records follow them. Most private schools request prior academic files, although some private schools — mainly religious ones — do not.

    …Responding to a Beacon Journal request, the national center identified 13 cases involving 18 recovered children since 1990 in which the family was home schooling.

    “That doesn’t mean that there weren’t hundreds of other kids that were recovered that were home-schooled, but they never mentioned it in the report,” Ermini said.

    One per year?! It’s an epidemic!!!

    This was the first article that I’ve managed to read end-to-end. Tim’s right; this really is a hatchet job (as well as hack journalism). There are some other gems that are probably worth highlighting:

    The local superintendent cannot ask any questions about the family or children, including where the family lived prior to moving into the district. Requesting prior academic records is forbidden.

    Ohio is considered a moderate state for oversight and accountability.

    So subtle.

    In other states, such as Texas and Michigan, where home-schooling laws are even looser, families are not required to notify their district. In these states, compulsory education has, in effect, been abandoned.

    …In Texas, home schooling is so common that most people don’t think twice about a home-schooling family living nearby.

    And, saving the best for last:

    Hammer said the issue raises a number of questions that lack easy answers, such as: Do relaxed rules for home schooling create an environment that leads to an increase in abductions? Would an abducting parent who already has violated laws by taking the child be concerned about following home-schooling registration laws?

    This entire article is just idiotic. Their premise is that with tighter regulations, including mandating that homeschoolers furnish prior education records, kidnappers would not be able to hide. But that presumes there are records. So, the kids would have had to have been at a minimum of five or six when the kidnapping occurred. I have no statistics on this, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that most kids are below the compulsory attendance age. After all, it’d be a whole lot easier to hide an infant who wouldn’t remember her other parent than to hide a seven or eight-year-old who would.


    Filed on at 2:14 pm under by Tim Haas

    Well, at least wherever the Santorums actually live:

    Sen. Rick Santorum and his wife will immediately begin home-schooling their five school-age children after they drew criticism from a school board member for sending them to an Internet-based school paid for by taxpayers.

    A member of the Penn Hills school board said last week that the district has paid about $100,000 for the Santorums’ children to attend the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Erin Vecchio said Santorum has never lived in the district, despite owning a two-bedroom house there; the family of six lives in a home in Leesburg, Va., so the senator can be close to Washington, D.C.

    In a statement issued late Wednesday and posted on the senator’s Web site, Santorum said they would withdraw their children from the cyber charter school.


    Filed on at 2:09 pm under by Tim Haas

    Since I’m sure the Akron boys are tired after their long investigation, I figured I’d help them out by collecting pieces for their next extravaganza:

    Akron School Employee Charged With Rape Of Minors

    Tates Creek High School Employee Charged with Raping Student

    High School Worker Waives Hearing on Sex Charges

    Porn Allegations Hit Teacher At Center Of ‘Torture’ Probe

    Boy raped inside middle school

    Ex-conductor for junior symphony faces charges in sex-abuse cases

    Teen to serve two years in Clay rape

    Assault Allegation at School: Boy with Downs Syndrome Harmed

    Oh, wait, it would be terribly disingenuous of me to draw any kind of conclusions about public schools from this random collection of news stories from the past five days, for after all, “public school buildings remain among the safest places for a child”.


    Filed on at 11:52 am under by Tim Haas

    Yesterday a critic of homeschooling sent an e-mail that admonished me for not seriously engaging the issues in the ABJ stories. This was my reply, edited slightly to preserve the critic’s indentity:

    Skeptical, even highly critical, I can handle — your work, for example […]. But that’s not what this series is doing; instead, it is going out of its way to find problems that can and do happen in every kind of educational setting and every kind of family — poor instruction, physical and educational neglect, violence, religious indoctrination — and attempting to portray them as uniquely pernicious when homeschooling is involved.

    Read more »


    Filed on November 17, 2004 at 9:58 pm under by Tim Haas

    The carrot seems to be working in the Penn Hills district in western Pennsylvania:

    In the 2000-01 school year, 87 school-age youngsters were being home-schooled.

    In the current school year, home-schooled students dropped to 39 while charter-cyber school enrollees, who weren’t counted in 2000-01, number 152 .

    In the last school year, there were 46 home-schooled children and 121 students enrolled in a charter or cyber school.

    Actually, the trend itself doesn’t bother me all that much — as long as the cybernauts stop calling themselves homeschoolers.


    Filed on at 9:47 pm under by Tim Haas

    Even as we continue to be buffeted by ill winds from Akron, another Ohio district is considering the honeypot approach:

    �Home schooling is here,� said Fairfield Superintendent Robert Farrell. �We have to change. We have to be accommodating to our taxpayers and students who want another option.�

    Farrell said he expects to bring a written policy to the school board in February. If a policy is adopted, home-schooled children could take a maximum of two courses at a time to supplement their home education and could be considered for eligibility in extracurricular activities if they take the maximum two courses.

    And whence this generous impulse?

    Like most Ohio school districts, Fairfield currently has an �all or none� policy, either a child is enrolled full-time or not allowed at all.

    Although we approve of such a plan for the benefit of the students, it also carries a benefit to the district.

    Currently, the state allocates the district $5,169 for each pupil it serves. Funding for a part-time student would be pro-rated. So, if a home-schooled student took the maximum two courses, he or she would be enrolled half time and the district would receive half the state funding � $2,584.50. Multiply that by the 200-some-odd students in the district who are home-schooled and that�s a substantial figure.

    Ah. It’s for the good of the children, then.


    Filed on at 7:57 am under by Tim Haas

    The young’uns have a class at the shore today, and once we get back I have to rush into the city for a late afternoon meeting, so no blogging till fairly late tonight or tomorrow morning.

    As the subletter around here, I’m going to sub-sublet the comments on this thread to you guys — share something interesting if you see it today. Let us know if there’s anything mockworthy in the Akron series — as of 7:53 a.m., today’s segment isn’t up yet.

    (Why mostly open? Try to keep those complaints about the weather to a minimum, OK?)


    Filed on November 16, 2004 at 2:18 pm under by Tim Haas

    The Miami Herald, another Knight-Ridder paper, seems to be running the Akron series — online, anyway. Can anyone from Florida confirm whether it’s running in the print edition?


    Filed on at 1:59 pm under by Tim Haas

    Malaysia apparently all but outlawed homeschooling last year. This long-time homeschooling father fills us in:

    But the situation has changed since our story and photos last graced the local press: Malaysia reviewed its laws on education and passed a new bill in 2003 making attendance in a school (public or private) mandatory for the first 6 years, starting when a child becomes 7 years old.

    That caused quite a stir considering we met with the previous Minister of Education in 2002 to talk about the viability and legitimacy of homeschool. Never mind that he expressed support (provided homeschoolers applied for exemption). Now that he has been replaced and the Education Act revised, parents applying for exemption have been running into a brick wall. It seems you now can only homeschool if your child has a medically certified disability.

    My advice to new homeschoolers since then has been to keep their heads down and follow their conscience. Although my boys are in the clear (they’re 14 and 12) there’s only this much one can do when education is a hot button here.

    (Hat tip and headline: Rikki.)


    Filed on at 1:47 pm under by Tim Haas

    … after tasing another child:

    Police have acknowledged using a stun gun to immobilize a 12-year-old girl just weeks after an officer jolted a first-grader with 50,000 volts.

    Police Director Bobby Parker defended the decision to use a Taser on the 6-year-old boy last month because he was threatening to injure himself with a shard of glass. But Parker said Friday that he could not defend the decision to shock the fleeing girl, who was skipping school and apparently drunk.

    I bet the lawsuit will be even more shocking.

    (Hat tip: Schola.)


    Filed on at 10:07 am under by Tim Haas

    The Akron series just took a left turn into the surreal:

    Racists Can Use Home Schools to Train Youths

    For all she knows, it may be an isolated incident, but a guide at an Ohio state park is still troubled by an interaction with a home-schooling family.

    One day, as an African-American child entered a park classroom, a home-schooled child said, “ `I don’t want no n—— sitting next to me,’ ” the guide recounted. “That was the worst,” she said.

    She is cautious and doesn’t want her name used because home schoolers frequently visit the park.

    “There are some very bright individuals. You can see that their parents are able to teach them more on an individual basis. It always falls back on what the parents know,” the guide said. “If the parents are well-educated, it’s great.”

    Home schooling has a strain of racism running through it that may reflect similar ideas held by others in the broader society. There are no studies or numbers to put racism and home schooling in perspective, but home-schooling laws that ensure that parents have the freedom to make socialization choices for their children also allow some families to completely withdraw from society.

    Any thoughts I had of seriously engaging this series have been whisked away to a secret compound.


    Filed on at 9:39 am under by Tim Haas

    Man, Chris just did my job for me this morning.


    Filed on at 9:29 am under by Tim Haas

    It’s the two-pronged approach in Ohio this week — scarin’ and carin’:

    Home-schooled students in the Fairfield public school district soon might have a new option for learning music, art and other special subjects.

    The district’s school board is discussing a policy of voluntary part-time enrollment for students educated at home and in nonpublic schools. Further discussion is scheduled for the regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday.

    “It’s really a way for a public school to open its arms to home-schoolers. They are a part of our community,” said Lynn Kitchen, Fairfield assistant superintendent.

    Don’t fall for either one.

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